A dangerous and determined organisation


ANALYSIS:Dissident Republicans, who pose a real threat to the State, are growing more confident, writes CONOR LALLY

AT ITS height, the Provisional IRA had a structure, discipline and intelligence-gathering network to challenge any police or military force. This enabled it to carry out bombing and gun attacks against members of the British government, security forces and any other so-called “legitimate targets”.

While the current group of active dissidents is far smaller and much less effective, it poses a real risk to the State, which the Government is putting pressure on the Garda force to contain.

However, the Garda has been very successful in recent years in tackling these groups, seizing a large number of weapons, making scores of arrests annually and charging large numbers of dissident suspects every year.

Intelligence on active members and their supporters has led gardaí to a number of finds of explosives and bomb-making material constructed in the Republic just as they were about to be moved across the Border and used to attack the PSNI there.

The arrest of a man in Tallaght on Wednesday and recovery of components of a gun used in an attempt to kill a well-known criminal in Co Meath two years ago is just the latest in a string of constant operations against dissidents in the Republic.

However, many details around the case of murdered Real IRA member Alan Ryan in north Dublin three weeks ago suggest the organisation is dangerous and well supported.

Ryan (32), from Donaghmede in north Dublin, had served two prison sentences for firearms offences linked to his involvement with the Real IRA. He emerged from prison in his late 20s and banded with like-minded young men mainly from the north side of the city. He effectively began taxing drugs gangs through extortion.

A measure of how confident he and those around him felt was his targeting of the biggest gangs in the city, including the faction based in Finglas that had been led by murdered criminals Eamon Dunne and Marlo Hyland.

The group has killed some 15 people in the past decade, more than any other gang in the history of Irish organised crime.

Despite that background, Ryan and his associates threatened to shoot the gang’s leaders unless they were paid regular protection money – and very nearly succeeded in one such attempt.

They also infiltrated the legitimate security sector and supplied doormen to some pubs and clubs. At the time of his death, Ryan was facing charges over a case in which it is alleged a publican was threatened and ordered to cease trading.

When finally shot dead – most likely by a coalition of the big gangs he and his Real IRA faction were targeting – Ryan’s funeral represented another show of strength for the organisation.

A colour guard dressed in paramilitary combat gear accompanied his coffin in the environs of the Donaghmede church where his funeral Mass was held. And a volley of shots was fired over his coffin earlier in the day at his family home in suburban Dublin.

Immediately a publicity effort was put into train, with statements being released by the republican movement via the internet and directly to newspapers, branding Ryan a proud republican who had been killed because of his anti-drugs stance.

While the Garda response to the funeral on the day was to stand off, in the days that followed a massive search operation was conducted and a number of people have since been charged with terrorist offences.